Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family Survived Katrina - GG's Fine Foods is dream come true.

I tracked down GG, ( Linda Gibson), at a Farmer’s Market where she had entered a pie contest. “What kind of pie,” I asked on the phone.
Crawfish pie,” she said in her soft southern Louisiana voice. The pie is made with the tail of the crawfish and  in a cream sauce. It comes in a pie crust she makes from scratch. The perfect seasonings come from her grandmother who could not read or write. As a child, Linda observed and learned how to mix the seasoning. She has bottled and named her grandmother’s mixture, Bodacious Creole Seasoning, which is sold in stores. On the day of our conversation, Linda was in talks with Whole Foods about carrying her products.  
GG, Linda Gibson


The Gibson family, Linda, her three children and her husband, are Katrina survivors who sought refuge in the north Fulton area of Atlanta after the storm decimated their home and fledgling restaurant in New Orleans. The family had lived in New Orleans East, and she said that neighborhood is just now, nine years later, beginning to come to life again.

I have kept up with Linda Gibson through my sister, GayMoring, who came into Linda’s life “at its lowest point” and worked diligently to help her find shelter, furniture and funds to pay off debts. The Presbyterian Church my sister attended generously provided an amount of cash, and Gay gave time and extra effort to raise more money.

“If it hadn’t been for the love and kindness of Gay and her church, I wouldn’t have made it,” Linda told me.
Gay Moring was taken with Linda Gibson’s tenacity, her persistence in following her dream of owning and running a restaurant to make a living for her family. Gay, with help from Stu, her husband, asked friends and acquaintances to make cash donations to help the Gibson family. Caring people from here as well as in Atlanta area sent checks and notes, proving that we still have those who believe in helping those who are less fortunate, even when they are strangers in need.

“I felt like a foreigner in a foreign land,” Linda said about trying to find her way around Roswell and Alpharetta, GA. She appreciates Gay and all those who showed compassion for her family.

 “It was frightening, like going into the unknown,” Linda remembers. She had never lived anywhere but New Orleans. The city was her home. For a long time Linda yearned to go back, but she knew there was nothing for her there. The emotional strain of losing all that was familiar and all her worldly possessions took a toll on her.  Eventually she had to let her flooded home go as it was impossible to try to save it. She realized that her future was in Georgia, but it was not easy to accept.
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Raised by a single mom and a grandmother, Linda credits her grandmother’s seasonings of her Creole food to the success of the three-year-old restaurant she had before Katrina destroyed it. People would stand in line each day just to get her seafood gumbo and her crawfish pie. Starting a restaurant takes money but all was lost when Katrina blew into town. 

Linda is very grateful to her Lord. “I have embraced this incredible gift given to me by God, the ability to prepare food that people love to eat.”

Linda Gibson cooks now in a commercial kitchen in Woodstock, GA but sells her “dishes to go” in a store front at 34 Webb Street in Roswell, GA. Her oldest daughter graduated from Tulane and is marketing manager for the restaurant. Another daughter joined the military and serves in the U.S. Army.
The only boy in the family has disabilities but he works in the restaurant. He is her “heavy lifter” she said, and she could not get along without him. “He is the best son anyone could ever have. He never gives me any trouble.”

During the dark days after Katrina, Linda and her husband handled their grief in different ways.  As often happens after a tragedy, the couple separated. But they are back together, supporting each other, again.

“He hangs sheet rock and paints and helps keep the family afloat,” Linda told me with a laugh. He also helps with the restaurant.

“I met many wonderful people who showed such a lot of love during those difficult times," Linda said. "I will never forget them and many of them kept in touch. Some of them became good friends."

A year after Katrina, Linda opened a second restaurant in Woodstock, but she said she was blindsided by the recession. That hit her hard. Now GG's Fine Foods in Roswell, her third effort to share her love of Creole cooking, is growing by word of mouth. Her products are sold in some Kroger stores and she hopes to one day have them in stores all over the country. This video interview with Linda and a few of her customers will entice anyone who loves New Orleans food to stop in and take home their favorites. 

In September, Linda Gibson will have a book signing at the store on Webb Street. She has written a cookbook with her favorite recipes of Southern, Creole and Cajun flavors. Stay tuned for the date and if you live in the area, be sure to stop in and meet a strong woman who refused to give up her dream. 

It takes courage to keep striving when it seems that all is lost, and it takes courage to ask for help when you must. While the restaurant business is not easy, and Linda has overcome great odds to be where she is today, I’m betting on this woman and her family. 

Visit Linda's website  www.ggsfinefoods.com   

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